30 September 2013

Foodie Penpals: September Edition

Several very intelligent people have told me over the years, that you learn something new everyday, and people that don't think they're learning are either close-minded or don't realise what's going on. It may be something as simple as Big Ben isn't viewable to most of the public or how to recognise a constellation.
Well, over the last month I've learned something quite interesting. One in Four people in the UK are gluten intolerant, and it seems that thanks to me, statistically speaking you're probably safe. It turns out that my system doesn't really like gluten. It's nothing earth changing but it's been interesting to find what I can and can't handle.

I'm not super sensitive as some people are, but a White bread sandwich means my tummy gets as round as a drum. Not ideal really - my boss has given me a few worried askance glances and it's not really comfortable, but it is definitely food for thought. How long do you run through life not realising that something is not good for you?
Any who, I've been delving into the world of fermentable oligosaccharides and how to deal with eating on the run that doesn't involve the old standby of a sandwich. That Earl of Sandwich has a lot of gluten-addiction to answer for.

My Foodie Penpal Cara (a reader) this month really came through trumps for me though - I've been trialling all sorts of foods, normal and gluten free to test them and she kindly sent me a few I haven't tried - Gluten Free crackers (similar to our favourite Ritz crackers that I've been missing), Cheese bites - Original and Sour Cream & Onion, and Corn Cakes.
Thanks so much Cara, it's really appreciated - we're slowly making our way through them, and I hope you're feeling better.

I sent my box to Sabine, another lovely reader who had really specific requests making shopping super easy. I tucked a few extras in though - I hope she enjoys them!
Thank goodness chocolate doesn't have gluten.

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28 September 2013

Kiwi Favourite Treats - the UK Cheat Guide

Sometimes you feel heartache at the thought of the people, your town and the culture you leave behind when you move to another country. Sometimes, it's more of a hollow feeling in your stomach. You know, like it's empty?

One of the hardest things about being an expat so far from home is of course a distinct lack of easy access to not-too-expensive home treats. These for the most part aren't a necessity or a world crisis if you can't get them, but it can make quite a large difference when you're homesick as a short-term fix to be able to masticate something you love.  
This has been an anguishing post to write (yeah right) taking more than 7 years of painstaking work to compile.

I have painstakingly tried and tested many, many UK food items, and have ended up with a (possibly acrimonious) list of replacements that are good in a pinch. Please don't attack me, or boycott the blog if this upsets you as 'it's not the real stuff' just bear it in mind next time you have a craving. And it enjoy the fact that it doesn't cost 4 times what it would be in New Zealand.

One of the drinks I love the most you can surprisingly get here in pubs - Lemon, lime & Bitters - you normally just have to teach the bar staff how to make the drink (they musn't sell it very often). Occasionally they pull out Lemon Bitters, but that's quite a different drink all together.

There are a few requests I struggled to meet with that my expat friends missed; 
  • Affordable & good Fush 'n chups
  • Not expensive Japanese food
  • Fresh Mussels
  • Chop Suey / Chow Mein
  • Breakfast Tacos
  • Ginger Kisses

What am I missing? As an expat, what do you miss the most?
* This title bar proved to be a long discussion. I was vetoed using the uber tongue-in-cheek "Uk goods that aren't quite as delicious as the real thing" because it's rude and "inaccurate".
** They are just more solid that Timtams which makes sucking your tea through them difficult.
*** The New Zealand Gourmet Pie Company - who are offering 5 for the price of 4 if you enter the code "LondonKiwiEmma" into the notes box.

27 September 2013

(Mostly) Wordless Friday

The Getting-ready-for-hibernation-Kiwi-style Edition.

I've entered my Jaffa Slice in FoodNerd4Life's virtual bake sale for MacMillan Cancer Support - join in!

A touch of taste testing for @NZGourmetPies - more to follow on this subject

A tube themed pop-up pub

Sunshine, Flat Whites and Lemon Rosemary Drizzle Cake

Am I making you hungry yet? Yummy nom nom. (#sorryi'mnotsorry)

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26 September 2013

Edinburgh #travelthursdays

Edinburgh holds a special place in my heart. It's funky, uncompromising, unexpected and friendly. It's also the place that hubby and I first travelled together. Not the world's most challenging trip - straight up on the train from London - but in some ways it was.
It's perfect for a long weekend/city break. We hired somewhere central and cheerful to stay and basically wandered the city, going wherever the fancy took us. 
Warning: these photos are a little old, and a bit grim, but hold a special if freezing cold place in my travel book. We live, we learn!

We couldn't miss the hair-raising, and beautiful views from the top of Edinburgh Castle. We went in October/November, and unluckily the weekend that we went it was freezing. Fah-reezing. It also meant that we didn't get to enjoy the full view expanse of the view, but it's still a beautiful city.

We took a good long wander around Holyrood Palace, and it was the first place (in my limited travelling) where you really felt a part of the history. Wandering through Mary, Queen of Scots bedroom (and over her 'blood' which I still think is the result of an over-enthusiastic guide but it's never been proven) it really gives you a sense of this woman who has such an impact on history.

The exceedingly mondernest Scottish Parliament is directly across from Holyrood Palace, a dichotomous statement. It's a really beautiful building & well worth a wander around.
(Borrowed from The Widows World)
Our favourite thing to visit? The Forth Rail bridge, mostly because we're nerds, additionally because it's internationally famous. Cool fact; the bridge was known as 'the bridge with neverending painting' because as soon as they finished, they'd have to start again. In 2011 a paint was deleoped that would last 25 years much to our disappointment.
The world famous Forth Rail bridge...

... and the graceful Forth Rail Bridge.
We enjoyed all of the local delicacies; neeps and tatties, black pudding for breakfast and tried Irn-bru (not for me I'm afraid) but chickened out on the heart attack on a serviette that is a deep-fried Mars Bar.
Too ashamed to do this in public in London, I Ninja'd in this country phone box.

On the flipside though, if you do try the deep fried Mars Bar, you can slough off the calories walking up the crazily steep street inclines. We did one uber-touristy thing (preferring just to laugh at the drunken idiots wearing tam o'shanters and kilts lurching with their drunken Aussie accents antics) which was visit Mary Kings Close, a set of rooms and streets preserved in their 17th Century condition. We didn't see any ghosts, but it was pretty darn interesting.
We've been back to Edinburgh several times and keep discovering more; sunshine, rain, hail and snow and I don't mind telling you that we missed out on Hogmany one year because I was too chicken (after recently breaking my wrist) to slip slide on the busy snowy streets. We love it.
15th Century Rosslyn Chapel is breath taking, and worth at least half a day's visit, in my humble opinion. If you like churches/the da vinci code/craftsmanship/conspiracy theories and has quite a good pub nearby. Ps. the photos is borrowed from Visit Scotland as my camera was rubbish.
My top tips for Edinburgh?
  • Take layers & a jacket for warmth
  • If you want to see the Forth Bridge and don't have a car, you don't have to go on a guided tour, just jump on the bus & ask the bus driver where to walk. You walk down a hillside, begin to wonder what the heck you've got yourself into, and then boom, there it is. There (at our time of visiting) is also a cute little pub nearby.
  • There are great free museums.
  • Try a deep fried Mars Bar, and let me know what you think of it.
  • Rosslyn Chapel is a must, again if you don't have a car there is a bus from the city centre, and it doesn't take too long.
  • Haymarket Station is about a 15 minutes wait and 5 minutes journey from Waverly Station on the train.
  • Take layers & a jacket for warmth.
  • If you're sick because you caught a cold as you didn't take enough layers, it's ok to eat Dominos in your hotel room. 

Would you try a Deep-Fried Mars Bar?

25 September 2013

Hummingbird Cafe now known as Proud Mary's, Shepherds Bush

Regular readers will be aware that I have an brunch addiction. I don't know if it's a Kiwi thing, a generation thing, or just an 'Emma'-thing, but the odds are if me and my mates are out for a celebration/catchup/or-any-excuse-I-can-think of meal it'll be brunch. Or afternoon tea, equally acceptable.

So, when TNT Magazine (a bible for Kiwis and Aussies in the UK for more than 30 years) approached me about becoming a 'pro-blogger' checking out restaurants for them, I though 'hey' another excuse!


The Kiwi-run Hummingbird Café (now known as Proud Mary's) had been on my horizon for quite awhile (thanks for the brilliant shout-out Kiwis in London) so I emailed my usual suspects and we got a date in. Luck of all luck, we found ourselves in the best position - a sunny Saturday morning, Flat Whites in hand, ready to catch up and snack on the best meal of the day.

My game plan is simple, but effective. Eggs Benedict, flat white and maybe something naughty to share - in this case a delicious Lemon and Rosemary Drizzle cake from the teasing display at the counter. I simply wasn't able to resist a slice. Our table ordered a few variations; Poached Eggs with Avocado & Bacon, Eggs Royale, Blueberry Pancakes with bacon, and 'Spiced Moorish Eggs & Chorizo'.

In order of favourite dishes; Blueberry pancakes were a surprise outright win. Well-sized, beautifully cooked and absolutely melted in your mouth, with a sly hit of maple syrup - these alone caused us to immediately plan another visit. My Eggs Benedict was pretty darn good, the Avocado breakfast & bacon combo was a good standard and the Eggs Royale with slightly overcooked yolks made it more miss than hit. For us, the dish we didn't get on with was the 'Spiced Moorish Eggs & Chorizo'. My friend who is lactose intolerant ordered it sans-yoghurt and it wasn't great, but at this point, the biggest plus kicked in.

It was proper fantastic old-fashioned Kiwi service (something I definitely get homesick for). They took the feedback on board, removed the dish and replaced it with a requested Hummingbird Breakfast with no trouble at all. They were extremely apologetic, obliging and quick to resolve problems. I've worked in hospitality, and problems happen, that's life, but the mark of a great front-of-house team is what can make or break a brunch spot, and they were fab.

Oh, and that Lemon Rosemary Drizzle cake? Sooooooooo good. Rich, piquant and very moreish. We couldn't stop ourselves nibbling at it and seriously contemplated another one, that is before the more behaved little voices in our heads scuppered the gluttony.

The fantastic coffee is bang on from Square Mile and service from the staff was great. I hate to be hurried on a brunchy morning, and found that they were friendly, more than happy to make substitutions (also fixing a wobbly table) and didn't push us along, meaning that we could enjoy our chat and brekkie at leisure.

I really enjoyed their fiery Virgin Marys (and not just my own) . I tell you what, go in there with a hangover, try one of these babies, and watch the dusty corners be blown out. Whew, they were fantastic.

Will I be back? Definitely, those pancakes are calling my name...


The Hummingbird café (now known as Proud Mary's) is tucked away on leafy Oaklands Grove in West London - the closest tube Stations is Shepherds Bush Market. I'd love to say it's a gem that no-one has discovered, but it seems like a nicely humming local haunt - perfect for brunch and has a great local vibe.

It's run by a Kiwi, Lorraine and her Morroccan partner, is a self-styled antipodean eatery (yes, I just said 'eatery') and I really recommend it. It's nice to have somewhere that's not in trendy Shoreditch or on the Old Street Bermuda triangle roundabout that's quietly tucked away. I also thought the décor was very very cute - very soft, feminine and pretty. The pricing was fair as well (and I wasn't comped in any way for this, just sharing the love and good brunch spots).

24 September 2013

Clockwork Princess - Cassandra Clare Reading Review

A beautiful book-reading heroine that kicks butt, and gets her pick of the guys? Every readers dream.

I couldn't resist going to Blackfriars Bridge as it features in the books.
It's such a beautiful bridge, especially in the setting sun.

I warned you, didn't I, whilst reviewing the first two books in the Infernal Devices series that I find myself getting stuck into a series? Much like a greedy child not wanting stop at just one Lolly Sweet, I can't resist tucking into the whole bag, then feeling guilty before crashing out from a sugar high.

I highly, highly recommend these books to any Fantasy/SciFi/YA reading fans out there. Tessa, the main character finds out throughout the first two books (the Clockwork Angel & the Clockwork Prince respectively) that there is a supernatural world overlaid on her own Victorian one, and that she has an unexpected gift - the ability to turn herself into any other person, alive or not, just by touching an object they owned. She is kidnapped by Mortmain, an evil man bent on marrying her and stealing her gift, then rescued by the Nephilim, a class of protecting beings, descended from Angels, who befriend her. They fight demons and all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures who are out to hurt mundanes (muggles).

So that's up to date. In Clockwork Princess, Mortmain, is suceeding at creating an army of unstoppable, unbeatable clockwork robots, and furthermore involving demons. Young Tessa is also discovering who she is whilst of course there  is the archetypal love triangle; Tessa is engaged to Jem, dying of a drug habit and best of friends with Will, whom she is also in love with.

Between the love interests, fighting, steampunk-esque clockwork robots, otherworld creatures, beautiful Victorian dresses and London background I was hooked. I laughed, I cried, I gasped in shock (much to my hubby's confused amusement). The only problem is, there aren't any more to read.

"You know that feeling," she said, "when you are reading a book, and you know that it is going to be a tragedy; you can feel the cold and darkness coming, see the net drawing close around the characters who live and breathe on the pages. But you are tied to the story as if bring dragged behind a carriage, and you cannot let go or turn the course aside."

I did struggle in a few places, but the secondary characters were fabulous - Sophie the maid learning to fight, Gideon and Gabriel learning so very much and Magnus Bain who is fabulous. I'm not going to give away any spoilers though, and felt the epilogue was too tidy. #justsaying.

There is definitely a huge bonus coming late to a brilliant series - you can read one then immediately download/order the next one!

Are you a Will fan - troubled, gorgeous, mischief and unusually bookish or a Jem fan - calm, eerily beautiful, exotic and musical?

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23 September 2013

Battersea Power Station

Iconic Battersea Power Station has for many, many years concealed it's internal secrets, whilst cheekily occupying the south-western London Horizon and imaginations of many bored commuters (not to mention Pink Floyd fans).
The star of Open House this year, was Battersea Power Station, with the coup that for the first time in 20 years it was possible for the public to view the interior of the iconic structure.
Much like New Years Eve with warnings of big queues and waiting times, we decided to get there on Saturday morning pretty early, armed with something to read, many things to discuss, a bite to eat (in this case brekkie) and a few cups of tea.
Not such a bad breakfast view , eh?
It was pretty busy to say the least, but everyone was in quietly good spirits. Because we set out so early we were very lucky to be in the first 100 or so people to get inside. The first public in 20 or so years to step foot inside this monolith structure.
You walked through a pretty flower bed/pop-up park, in through between the south end towers, past colour boards with Battersea Station PR departments vision (past and present) on the walls and along a huge corporate tent to the viewing deck.
Great, no? 
Battersea Power Station is a decommissioned coal-fired power station located on the south bank of the River Thames. It comprises two individual power stations, built in two stages in the form of a single building. Battersea A Power Station was built in the 1930s, with Battersea B Power Station to its east in the 1950s. The two stations were built to an identical design, providing the well known four-chimney layout.
There is something so ethereal about abandoned buildings, a spirit of how great this edifice used to be before it was disused and began to crumble.
Power Station A was closed in 1975 due to output falling and increased costs, but with rumours rife about the structure being demolished and housing build on the site, a campaign was launched in 1980 to get the structure listed (Grade II, then upgraded to Grade II*) before Power Station B finally was closed in 1983.
The closure of the two stations which had operated for 40 and 30 years respectively was put down largely to the generating equipment becoming outdated, and the preferred choice of fuel for electricity generation shifting from coal toward oil, gas and nuclear power. 
The power station since it ceased generating power has been through several proposed iterations; demolition, a replacement football Stadium for Chelsea FC, and one where the station's roof was removed in the late 1980s, as there were plans to convert the structure into a theme park.
The turbine hall of Power Station A. See just how large it was.
Multi-billion pound works commence later this year to build luxury apartments. 
It is the UK's largest brick building. The A Station's control room was given many Art Deco fittings by architect Halliday. Italian marble was used in the turbine hall, and polished parquet floors and wrought-iron staircases were used throughout
The Battersea Power Station Community Group think one of the main reasons for the power station's worldwide recognition is that it has appeared on the cover of Pink Floyd's 1977 album, Animals, on which it was photographed with the group's inflatable pink pig floating above it.
The inflatable pig was tethered to one of the power station's southern chimneys, but broke loose from its moorings and, to the astonishment of pilots in approaching planes, rose into the flight path of  Heathrow airpot. Police helicopters tracked its course, until it landed in Kent.
The pig that was originally floated above Battersea Power Station was called "Algie".
Apparently the queues stretched for over a mile, from the park to Albert Bridge and Vauxhall Station. Over 18,000 people viewed the station on the Saturday alone and took advantage oppurtunity, which isn't to be repeated because of the development works.
You have to love Open House!
What do you think about the future of Battersea power station? Should it be pulled down? Do you think luxury apartments are a good use?

21 September 2013

Expat to Expat: Identity & Homesickness

Thought up and hosted by the lovely ladies at Found Love, Now What and The Hemborg Wife thought that for the month of September we would focus on Identity and Homesickness. Toughies. 
The availability of great Flat Whites help, I'm not going to be coy. 

Question from Belinda at Found Love, Now What?: How do you fit in to your new culture without losing some of your identity? 

I’ve found it generally very easy to be a Kiwi on the continent. People seem to view us as exotic fruit people, from a friendly and very beautiful corner of the British colonial world which is nice. Sometimes because of Lord of the Rings, they also occasionally think that we live in tiny round houses and have hairy feet which is quite weird. Incidentally, loads of Brits seem to have travelled to NZ, or have family living there which always astounds me – it’s just so far away!
One of the cute locals & a gratuitous cute photo.
The most obvious difference is in our accents. I struggled a little in the first few months when I first came to the UK because Kiwi-English is fairly unlike English-English – my boss harassed me into say ‘tehn’ instead of ‘tin’ (10) and ‘sehvhen’ instead of ‘sivin’. It’s funny though now, because unlike a lot of my Kiwi mates who have been here much longer that me, I’ve mostly lost my Nuu Zulund iccint (New Zealand accent), it’s to the point that when I say I’m a foreigner it confuses people. They then look astonished, and mentally review every word I’ve said, picking out the ones that didn’t quite sound right. I think maybe it’s because I have an English hubby, English cat and English colleagues so it’s rubbing off on me on an unconscious level. I was also mentally prepared for it to take a while to attune your ear to the many variations of English accents. A Geordie lilt is quite different to a West Country twang but you get there eventually. I always take my hat off to people who move to countries that speak another language – it must be such a challenge to not only learn a new place, but to be unable to communicate must be frustrating to say the least.

Mmmm Lamingtons - I have a secret supplier...

Taking accent out of the equation, life has been sweet as for the most part, but there are a few oddball Americanisms us Kiwis have adopted which do perplex the English - I guess it’s from all the Hollywood blockbusters we watch. Take into consideration pants. To me, Dan Carter and President Obama pants are anything from Jeans to Corduroys to Capris; to the British, they are undies. This has led to several quite embarrassing situations where I’m chatting away, oblivious, telling a story about a walk through the bush where I realised that I had torn a hole in my pants, or I’ve accidently dying them in the wash or had a pair come off the washing line to settle in my neighbours garden, before realising what they thought I was saying. To say my colleagues were rolling on the floor laughing is an understatement. This had to change.

For the most part, I've fitting into my new country was all in the detail. When I landed at Heathrow, it’s safe to say that I felt like I was coming home in a weird way which helped a lot I think – also, when I came over to explore and see what it was like everything that was new and different, so it was fun and interesting. I have been quite lucky though, and meeting my husband helped in many ways because I have a resident expert to consult on pretty well everything. I guess I hold onto my identity in small ways that make me smile – Kiwi jewellery, attending rugby matches when I can, NZ artwork on our walls at home, a Kiwi key-ring/bottle opener, making sure I have a good supply of Kiwi treats either made or bought, keeping in regular touch on Skype with my family (this is a MAJOR thing), and it’s nice being able to vent at “how stupid this country is” when everything (read: the transport system) seems to go wrong. Being able to pull the foreigner card when I direct us the wrong way is awesome too!

One thing that I’ve found here in London is that you have be super brave, be prepared to work for your luck here and hold a positive attitude. It seems to be about having the confidence to put yourself forward for things that you mightn’t normally consider, working hard and being friendly. Some of my fellow Kiwis haven’t had lucky breaks coming to London though which has to be utterly frustrating – rubbish landlords, crappy workmates (believe me, I’ve been there), a broken transport system and everything is expensive. BUT you have to stick with it, and be willing to try try and try again to make things better. There is also a plethora of free stuff in London – the only problem is deciding what to miss!

Question from Bailie at The Hemborg Wife: What do you think your biggest trigger for homesickness is?

For me, it’s just being tired, stressed or ill. The times I’ve been the most homesick are generally because something isn’t going well in another part of my life, (even though you probably don’t realise it at the time) because you think that the grass is much greener at home. I’m not going to gloss this over – over the years I’ve cried in my old office (much to the panic of my male boss) and at times spent days moping at home unable to get myself out of a blue funk because I missed everything at home.

Why he puts up with me, I don't know!
Thankfully, I have a lovely bloke who can see the signs, and orders me Squiggles, Jaffas and Timtams at the sight of my puffy face, and a whole lot of hugs. I’m also very lucky to have lovely expat friends who understand what I’m going through because they have been through it too. When the times get tough, we often just try and get out and find a distraction. A show, a picnic in the park or something fun. Having holidays planned help too, but I'm not sure that's exclusively an expat thing!

It'll be no surprise, but food is also a big focus – there are things from home that I really miss, but I’ve managed to find most of them somewhere somehow or a UK equivalent. Some I’ve had to dig out my Edmonds cookbook for, some we’ve found at the Kiwi brunch spots here in London, and some in the randomest of places - this is a blog post I’ve been working on too for a while, over 5 years in fact, so stay tuned.

Regular Skype sessions with my family help. Phone calls are great, but there really is something special about being able to see the people you love and share a cup of tea with them. There are a few family occasions that I’ve not been able to go to, but we’ve ‘been’ there with a quick Skype sessions to have a nose & say hello to everyone.

Okay, so now it’s your turn!
Found Love.  Now What?

Expats from around the world sharing a bit of their travel highs and lows!

(A wee postscript: we had a bit of a language mix-up when Morgan from Peaches Please kindly made a delicious Pumpkin Cake, which in the us is called a coffee cake because you generally eat them with coffee, not because there is coffee in them... oops #expat mistake by me. Ironic, no?)

How do you cope with loss of identity & homesickness?